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Stylistic origins Reggae, R&B, Ska, Rocksteady, Dub, Toasting
Cultural origins Late 1970s Jamaica, especially Kingston
Typical instruments Early dancehall: Drums - Bass guitar - Guitar - Organ
Modern dancehall: Drum machine - Sampler - Synthesizer - Organ
Mainstream popularity Since early 1980s in Jamaica, worldwide beginning in early 1990s.
Derivative forms Grime, Reggaeton
Ragga - Reggae en Español
(complete list)
Fusion genres
Reggae fusion - Bhangragga
Other topics
Murder music - Slackness

Dancehall is a genre of Jamaican popular music that developed in the late 1970s. Initially it was a more sparse and less political and religious variant of reggae than the roots style, with its emphasis on the Rastafari movement, that had dominated much of the 1970s,[1] though this has not been so since the nineties with the rise of famous dancehall Rasta artists like Sizzla.

In the mid-1980s, digital instrumentation became more prevalent, changing the sound considerably, with digital dancehall (or "ragga") becoming increasingly characterized by faster rhythms with little connection to earlier reggae rhythms.



Dancehall owes its moniker to the spaces in which popular Jamaican recordings were aired by local sound systems and readily consumed by its "set-to-party" patronage; commonly referred to as "dance halls". Social and political changes in late-1970s Jamaica were reflected in the shift away from the more internationally-oriented roots reggae towards a style geared more towards local consumption, and in tune with the music that Jamaicans had experienced for some time when sound systems performed live.[2] Michael Manley's socialist PNP government had been replaced with Edward Seaga's right wing JLP.[1] Themes of social injustice, repatriation, and the Rastafari movement were overtaken by lyrics about dancing, violence, and explicit sexuality.[1][2] Musically, older rhythms from the late 1960s were recycled, with Sugar Minott credited as the originator of this trend when he voiced new lyrics over old Studio One rhythms between sessions at the studio, where he was working as a session musician.[2] Around the same time, producer Don Mais was reworking old rhythms at Channel One Studios, using the Roots Radics band.[2] The Roots Radics would go on to work with Henry "Junjo" Lawes on some of the key early dancehall recordings, including those that established Barrington Levy, Frankie Paul, and Junior Reid as major reggae stars.[2] Other singers to emerge in the early dancehall era as major stars included Don Carlos, Al Campbell, and Triston Palmer, while more established names such as Gregory Isaacs and Bunny Wailer successfully adapted.[1]

Music of Jamaica

Kumina - Niyabinghi - Mento - Ska - Rocksteady - Reggae - Sound systems - Lovers rock - Dub - Dancehall - Dub poetry - Toasting - Raggamuffin - Roots reggae - Reggae fusion

Anglophone Caribbean music
Anguilla - Antigua and Barbuda - Bahamas - Barbados - Bermuda - Caymans - Grenada - Jamaica - Montserrat - St. Kitts and Nevis - St. Vincent and the Grenadines - Trinidad and Tobago - Turks and Caicos - Virgin Islands
Other Caribbean music
Aruba and the Dutch Antilles - Cuba - Dominica - Dominican Republic - Haiti - Hawaii - Martinique and Guadeloupe - Puerto Rico - St. Lucia - United States - United Kingdom

Sound systems soon capitalized on the new sound, with the likes of Killimanjaro, Black Scorpio, Gemini Disco, Virgo Hi-Fi, Volcano Hi-Power, and Aces International also introducing a new wave of deejays.[1] The older toasters were overtaken by new stars such as Captain Sinbad, Ranking Joe, Clint Eastwood, Lone Ranger, Josey Wales, Charlie Chaplin, General Echo, and Yellowman, a change reflected by the 1981 Junjo Lawes produced album A Whole New Generation of DJs, although many went back to U-Roy for inspiration.[1][2] Deejay records became, for the first time, more important than records featuring singers, with deejay's often voicing over new rhythms before singers.[1] A further reflection of the live experience was the trend towards "sound clash" albums, featuring rival deejays and/or sound systems going head to head in competition for the appreciation of a live audience, with underground sound clash cassettes often documenting the violence that would come with such rivalries.[2]

Two of the biggest deejay stars of the early dancehall era, Yellowman and Eek-a-Mouse, chose humour rather than violence, with both becoming huge stars, and Yellowman the first Jamaican deejay ever to be signed to a major American label, and for a time enjoying a level of popularity in Jamaica to rival Bob Marley's peak.[1][2] The early 1980s also saw the emergence of female deejays, with Lady Saw, Sister Nancy, and Shelly Thunder bringing a new dimension to the dancehalls.[2]

Dancehall also brought a new generation of producers to the fore. Junjo Lawes, Linval Thompson, Gussie Clarke, and Jah Thomas took over from the producers who had dominated in the 1970s.[2]

King Jammy's 1985 hit, "(Under Me) Sleng Teng" by Wayne Smith, with an entirely-digital rhythm hook took the dancehall reggae world by storm. Many credit this song as being the first "digital rhythm" in reggae, utilizing a rhythm from a Casio MT-40 keyboard, leading to the modern digital dancehall, or ragga, However this is not entirely correct since there are earlier examples of digital productions; Horace Ferguson's single "Sensi Addict" (Ujama) produced by Prince Jazzbo in 1984 is one.[citation needed] The "Sleng Teng" rhythm was used in over 200 subsequent recordingsThis deejay-led, largely synthesized chanting with musical accompaniment departed from traditional conceptions of Jamaican popular musical entertainment. Dub poet Mutabaruka maintained, "if 1970s reggae was red, green and gold, then in the next decade it was gold chains". It was far removed from its gentle roots and culture, and there was furious debate among purists as to whether it should be considered some sort of extension of reggae music.

This shift in style again saw the emergence of a new generation of artists, such as Buccaneer, Capleton and Shabba Ranks, who became the biggest ragga star in the world A new set of producers also came to prominence: Philip "Fatis" Burrell, Dave "Rude Boy" Kelly, George Phang, Hugh "Redman" James, Donovan Germain, and [[Bobby DigitalWycliffe "Steely" Johnson and Cleveland "Clevie" Brown, aka Steely & Clevie, rose to challenge Sly & Robbie's position as Jamaica's leading rhythm sectionThe deejays became more and more lack and focussed on violence, with Bounty Killer, Mad Cobra, Ninjaman, and Buju Banton becoming major figures in the genre.

To compliment the harsher deejay sound, a "sweet sing" vocal style evolved out of roots reggae and R&B, marked by its falsetto and almost feminine intonation, with proponents like Pinchers, Cocoa Tea, Sanchez, Admiral Tibet, Frankie Paul, Half Pint, Conroy Smith, Courtney Melody, Carl Meeks, and Barrington Levy.

In the early 90s, songs like Dawn Penn's "No, No, No", Shabba Ranks's "Mr. Loverman", Patra's "Worker Man" and Chaka Demus and Pliers' "Murder She Wrote" became some of the first dancehall megahits in the U.S. and abroad. Various other varieties of dancehall achieved crossover success outside of Jamaica during the mid-to-late 1990s. Tanya Stephens gave a unique female voice to the genre during the 1990s.

The years 1990-1994 saw the entry of artists like Buju Banton, Bounty Killer, Lady Saw, Shaggy, Diana King, Spragga Benz, Capleton, Beenie Man and a major shift in the sound of dancehall, brought on by the introduction of a new generation of producers and for better or for worse, the end of Steely & Clevie's stranglehold on riddim production.

The early 2000s saw the success of newer charting acts such as Elephant Man and Sean Paul.

Currently, Sean Paul has achieved mainstream success within the United States and has produced several Top 10 Billboard hits, including "Temperature" and the 2006 single "[[(When You Gonna) Give It Up to Me|Give It Up To Me".

VP Records dominates the dancehall music market with Sean Paul, Elephant Man, and Buju Bantongleaner./show/show1.html Jamaica Gleaner - Follow the leaders - VP Records blaze the trail - Friday | May 18, 2001]</ref> for anti-gay lyrics.

In some rare cases, dancehall artists whose music features anti-gay lyrics have had their concerts canceled. Various singers have had international travel restrictions placed on them, and have been investigated by international law enforcement agencies such as Scotland Yard on the grounds that the lyrics incite the audience to assault homosexuals. In 2003, the British LGBT rights group OutRage! called for the arrest of Elephant Man for allegedly inciting the killing of gay men in his song lyrics. He was not arrested.[3] In January, 2006, Buju Banton, whose 1993 hit "Boom Bye Bye" advocates the murder of homosexuals by shooting and/or burning ("like an old tire wheel") was acquitted of assaulting a group of allegedly gay men in a house on Carlisle Avenue in Kingston. Many of the affected singers believe that legal or commercial sanctions are essentially an attack against freedom of speech.[4] Some artists eventually agreed not to use offensive lyrics during their concerts in Europe and the US.

Dancehall dances

The popularity of dancehall has spawned dance moves that help to make parties and stage performances more energetic. Many dance moves seen in hip-hop videos are actually variations of dancehall dances. Examples of such dances are: "Like Glue","pon de replay" "The Myspace", "The Bogle", "Heel-Toe", "Blazay-Blazay", "Pon the River, Pon the Bank", "Scooby Doo", "Spongebob", "Signal the plane", "Hot Fuk", "Tek Weh Yuhself", "Whine Up" (mix of pop, dance, R&B, hip-hop and dancehall), "Boosie Bounce", "Drive By", "Shovel It", "To Di World", "Dutty Wine", "Nuh Linga", "Beyonce Wine", "Gully Creepa", Willie Bounce" "Summer Bounce" "Santa Bounce","sweep" ,"daggering"[5][6][7][8] amongst many others.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Barrow, Steve & Dalton, Peter (2004) "The Rough Guide to Reggae, 3rd edn.", Rough Guides, ISBN 1-84353-329-4
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Thompson, Dave (2002) "Reggae & Caribbean Music", Backbeat Books, ISBN 0-87930-655-6
  3. ^ Sorry
  4. ^ village voice > music > Jah Division by Elena Oumano
  5. ^ "International News | Spate of broken penises caused by dance style 'daggering'". inthemix. Retrieved 2010-01-07. 
  6. ^ Schneider, Kate (2009-06-03). "Erotic &squo;daggering&squo; dance craze causing bodily harm | The Courier-Mail".,23739,25580440-17102,00.html. Retrieved 2010-01-07. 
  7. ^ "The Origins of Dancehall Reggae | Dancehall Reggae". 2009-08-17. Retrieved 2010-01-07. 
  8. ^ "Dance craze causes bodily harm". 2009-06-03. Retrieved 2010-01-07. 

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